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Photography of fog

Jerry Gilbert , Mar 27, 2001; 08:02 a.m.

I live near an old quarry that has been turned into a 9-hole golf course, with houses around the rim. I was driving by the other day and there was a beautiful layer of fog covering the golf course. I didn't have time to stop and take some pictures, but I got to thinking about how I would have photographed that. For color, would a filter be useful or necessary to bring out the ladscape with the fog. And if so, what filter(s) could I use? For black/white, what filter(s) should I use? If it makes a difference, the time was around 9 in the morning and the sun was trying to shine.

Thanks, Jerry


Ed Buffaloe , Mar 27, 2001; 08:41 a.m.

Don't know about color, but for black and white I shouldn't think you would want a filter at all, as anything yellow, orange, or red could allow you to see through the fog. I've had excellent results photographing fog with no filter.

If you've never tried PMK developer, Gordon Hutchings claims that it allows for a much smoother tonal rendition of fog because the developer stain masks the grain in the negative.

Here's a photograph taken in fog (developed in Rodinal): http://unblinkingeye.com/Photographs/Fine/01_Path/01_path.html

J. Scott Schrader , Mar 27, 2001; 09:43 a.m.

You won't need a filter for photographing fog in color either. (Unless you want to alter it in some manner. i.e. if the sun is filtering through and creating a warm golden color on the fog you could enhance that effect with a a warming filter 81a, 81b, or 81c.)

Jerry Gilbert , Mar 27, 2001; 12:34 p.m.

Thanks very much to Ed and Scott for your answers. Now I have to wait for the scene again... Incidentally; Ed, your picture is absolutely beautiful - thanks. Just out of curiosity, would you do anything differently if you had that opportunity again (different film, different developer (PMK?), etc.)?


Jerry Gilbert , Mar 27, 2001; 12:36 p.m.

Re: Response to Photography of fog

Thanks very much to Ed and Scott for your answers. Now I have to wait for the scene again... Incidentally; Ed, your picture is absolutely beautiful - thanks. Just out of curiosity, would you do anything differently if you had that opportunity again (different film, different developer (PMK?), etc.)?


Ed Buffaloe , Mar 27, 2001; 03:04 p.m.

I use PMK (or the less toxic substitute Pyrocat-HD) for most my work now, and I would definitely use it for a photo in/of fog. The thing I prize fog for is its ability to mask unwanted background detail and give a mysterious, otherworldly look to a photograph.

John Womack , Mar 27, 2001; 11:32 p.m.

One thing to play with in fog is to try adding 1/2 to 1 EV if the fog is light and to subtract the same amount if the fog is very heavy and dark.

Ben Greenberg , Mar 28, 2001; 09:47 a.m.

I would like to add a few words of support to John Womack's offering with regard to exposure compensation. My experience with fog, which I absolutely love to shoot, is that it is usually lighter than the 18% gray card for which all meters are calibrated. Therefore, unless you overexpose by some amount the scene would likely be rendered darker than you remember. Of course, you may wish to render it lighter or darker intentionally, which is what previsualization and the zone system is all about.

I second the comments already received about filters in that you uusually don't need any. I have also played around in fog with filters and techniques that increase the fog effect, and they can yield interesting results. In addition to fog filters and breathing on the lens, anything that diffuses the image can modify it in ways you might find interesting. I prefer not enhancing the effect, but everyone has different preferences.

I also much prefer getting out before sunrise along the river to photograph foggy conditions, usually in the fall, before the sun gets up very high. One of these days I will learn about the dew point and how one can predict when the river will be foggy in the fall. I love the interplay of the sun just over the horizen highlighting the fog along the river, frequently yielding cool blue in the shaded areas and golden light through the fog elsewhere. It is truly magical. I am sorry I don't have an image to share with you for I am still waiting with some friends for the new Polaroid and Nikon MF scanners to come out this spring.

E.J. Peiker , Mar 29, 2001; 10:28 a.m.

Ben, the dew point thing is actually pretty straight forward - if the overnight low is going to be within 4 degrees F or less of the dew point and there is very little or no wind, odds are very high that there will be low level fog before to somewhat after sunrise. Once the temp gets 5 degrees or so above the dew point the fog will begin to dissipate.

Ben Greenberg , Mar 30, 2001; 07:52 a.m.

E.J., thanks for the help on the dewpoint. This may show my ignorance even further, but how does one predict whether the dewpoint will be within 4 degrees of the low temperature? Is there a way of predicting what the dewpoint will be? Do I need to find out from the local weather people? What is the dewpoint? Thanks for any further help you can give me. Ben

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